More than 100 demonstrators rallied against House Speaker Paul Ryan after he toured a New Balance sneaker factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Protesters chanted and held signs reading: “Health care for all” and “No hate. No fear. Paul Ryan is not welcome here.”
The Massachusetts chapter of the Service Employees International Union, which represents healthcare workers, organized the demonstration in response to plans by Ryan’s and Republican representatives’ plans to enact massive tax cuts for the wealthy and to scrap former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Ryan had traveled to the heavily Democratic state to promote two of Donald Trump’s top priorities. Ryan delivered a stinging indictment of the current tax code, calling it inefficient, unfair and too complicated. He said the tax code puts U.S. businesses at a disadvantage against foreign competitors and overwhelms families who can’t fill out their own tax forms.
A House Republican plan would lower the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s plan would lower it to 15 percent.
The White House and congressional Republicans have been privately negotiating their tax package for weeks, with no public sign that they’re near a consensus. Democrats have been excluded from the talks.
Overhauling the nation’s tax system has been a top priority for Republicans, but the stakes have been magnified as lawmakers struggle to repeal Obama’s health care law.
The last time Congress overhauled the tax system was in 1986, the same year Ryan got his driver’s license. Ryan pledged to pass a tax package this year.
“This is a once-in-a-generation moment,” Ryan said. “It is time to cut taxes and simplify the code. It is time to create jobs and grow our economy. It is time to restore our nation to its full potential. It’s time to get this done.”
The Rev. Laura Hoke of the Andover Unitarian Universalist Church called Ryan’s visit to Lawrence “pretty outrageous.”
“It’s baffling. They’re continuing to push this mythology that tax cuts for the rich will magically help the poor,” she said.
Hoke said Lawrence is among the cities that would be the most affected by Republican healthcare and immigration policies.
Lawrence is a mostly blue-collar city where 75 percent of the residents are Latino. It’s about 30 miles north of Boston near the New Hampshire state line.
“We’re proud of New Balance and what it’s done in the community, but Paul Ryan doesn’t represent our values,” said Matt Bausemer, a 39-year-old vocational school teacher who was wearing a pair of the company’s sneakers.
New Balance executives have been supportive of Republicans.
Jim Davis, the company’s billionaire owner, gave nearly $2 million during the last election to Republican candidates and political action committees across the country, federal campaign records show.
Associated Press writer Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington contributed to this report.